Biographical Non-Fiction posted January 15, 2022


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I spend the night with a friend

First Sleepover

by Annmuma


“Wow.  Mama, I am so excited!   Mrs. Urban will be here in an hour to pick me up.  I am spending the night with Charlene!”

I was eleven years old and had never spent a night away from home – not with a relative, not with a friend, not with anyone.  I was a mama’s girl and I enjoyed always being with her; I knew we had limited time and that made separation from her a momentous decision.   This was an important day! 

Charlene Urban was my friend and one of the most popular girls in our sixth-grade class; as I remember, she was voted Class Favorite for four years in a row.  Her mother was a seamstress guaranteeing that Charlene wore beautiful clothes every day -and not just from the Simplicity Patterns that many of our moms could manage.  Many of her dresses came from McCall’s more intricate and difficult patterns and sometimes, Mrs. Urban designed and made her own patterns.

The Urbans, Charlene, her mom, her dad and sister, Annette, lived in what I considered an upscale house on the Monroe Highway.  It appeared to be a two-story, white frame home nestled under the pine trees and a couple of Magnolias. It was surrounded by Camelia and Gardenia bushes and, in the spring, yellow daffodils and white narcissus filled the flowerbeds. The setting, though small, gave one the feel of Gone With the Wind.  I visited there many years later to discover, it was an average home, well-cared for, but far from being elaborate.  But, in 1954, it was well outside of my normal setting, light switches on the walls, closets, lamps, and the list seemed endless in comparison to my home. 

“Well, Olevia, I’m letting you go because I know Mrs. Urban; you’ll be supervised.  Besides, Charlene has visited you many times, so it’s fair you get to go.  Still, don’t forget your manners and let me know what’s happening when you have access to a phone.”

“Mama. Don’t be sad.  I’ll be fine and we’re going to a movie today.”

“What movie?  I am not sure Mrs. Urban mentioned that when she called.”

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers!  Can you believe it?  I can’t wait!”

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was the movie under discussion by most of my sixth-grade girl friends.  As I think back, I don’t know why eleven-year-olds would be drawn to the film and it is not pertinent to this story.  Maybe we just heard our older sisters talking about Howard Keel or Jane Powell.   It was ‘going to the movies’ that excited me no matter what the film. 

The movie of choice was playing at the Paramount Theater, the nicest one in downtown Alexandria.   I felt like a princess being allowed to see a movie with a friend.  In our family, only my sister saw many movies and occasionally she took me with her;  I had seen one movie with my father a few years before.  I don’t really remember the name of it, but it was a Bible picture of some sort, something about Moses.    That was my total movie experience!

“There’s their car, Mama.  Mrs. Urban is about to turn into our driveway.”  

Once in the driveway, there was another one hundred yards to go before reaching our front gate.  I grabbed my bag and started to leave the porch.

“Hold on, Honey." Mama touched my shoulder.   "I want to talk to Mrs. Urban for moment before you go.”

“Mama, please don’t make me look like a baby.  I’m eleven-years-old!”  I said indignantly.

Mama chuckled a little, gave me squeeze and urged me on.  “Okay, Sweetie, take off.  Behave and make me proud of you.”

I ran to the gate and got there just as Mrs. Urban pulled up.

“Hey, Olevia.  Hop in the car with Charlene.  I want to say ‘hello’ to your mom.”

I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t you just wave and let’s go’.  Of course, I said nothing and, once in the car, it didn’t matter anyway.

“I brought my new pajamas.  Do you sleep in the same room with Annette?”

‘No.  Annette’s room is sorta across the hall at the top of the stairs.  You’ll see when we get home.   Mama is going to drop us off at the theater and then she will pick us up out front after the movie.  Did you bring any snack money?”

“Yes.  Mama gave me $2.  The movie is a quarter, right?”

“I think so, but sometimes the special movies are thirty-five or forty cents.  Popcorn and a coke is thirty cents.  So you have plenty of money.”

“Do they have a pay phone at the theather?”

“I don’t know.  Why?”

We were still in the driveway and already I was worried about leaving my mom.  “No reason, really.  Just wanted to know.”

Mrs. Urban had climbed back into the car by now and we were on our way.  “Okay, girls, have you got your purses?  Did you put a nickel in your shoe?”

“Yes, ma’am.” We answered in unison and giggled. 

The nickel in your shoe was a safety measure that Tioga girls learned early in life.  Pay phones cost a nickel and it was important to always be able to make a phone call.   Even though I was not quite sure of the reasoning behind it, I never left home without a nickel in my shoe.

The movie was uneventful – good, in that Charlene and I agreed Howard Keel was probably the most attractive man we had ever seen, but he was old.  Russ Tamblyn, who played the youngest brother, was more our type (as if we had a ‘type’).  We swooned over what a heaven it would be to be married, living in Oregon someday.  We also agreed that kidnapping seemed romantic, but scary.   It was fun to play grown-up for a couple of hours, but I had called my mom twice from the lobby when I went for snacks. 

Mrs. Urban was parked directly in front of the theater and soon we were on our way to Charlene’s.  Idle chit-chat along the way made the thirty-five or forty minute drive pass very quickly and we soon arrived home.  I had my bag in hand as we walked in through the kitchen.  Mr. Urban was sitting at the table and, as we ran up the stairs to her room, Charlene called out to him.

“Hey, Dad, this is Olevia.  She’s spending the night.”

“Hello, Mr. Urban.”

He just smiled and waved a hand.  I barely noticed even that; I was enthralled with the house.  It wasn’t really a two-story house.  They had added stairs going into the attic and then divided the attic into two separate A-Frame rooms, one for Charlene and one for Annette.   Each room had a window on one side and a closet on the other.  Charlene’s bed was in the middle of the room and had a large pink comforter on it, along with four giant pillows. 

But before, I could investigate everything, I asked, “Do you have an upstairs phone?”

“Yes.  Right there on the table between our rooms."

“Can I use it?  I just want to call my mom real quick.  She likes to know when I get home.”

“Sure.”

The night is still a blur in my mind.  I remember playing canasta with Mr. and Mrs. Urban.  I remember whispering in bed about everything and everybody.  I remember their dog, Yuma – so named because they got her in Yuma, Arizona.  I remember looking out the window, each of us wishing upon a star, swearing never to reveal our wish to anyone and then telling each other later.  I don’t remember the wish, but I do remember calling my mom once more just before going to bed. 

Breakfast was magical!  We had waffles, something I had only heard of, but never eaten.  Mrs. Urban had a waffle iron and she was good with it. There was also a bowl of fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream.  It looked more like dessert to me than breakfast.

“Is it okay, Mrs. Urban, if I call Mama to tell her I am eating waffles?”

“Sure.  Why?”

“It’s my first time to ever eat them.  We usually have biscuits with grits or eggs or something for breakfast.  Sometimes, we might have a pancake.  I want to tell her about these waffles.

“Go ahead.”

I was home by noon – gone less than twenty-four hours, but it seemed much longer.  When Mrs. Urban dropped me off, Mama was sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch.   I ran from the car and hugged her.

“Mama, I am glad I am home.”

“Me too, Honey.”
 
Postscript: My mom lived another almost two years after this event and, to best of my memory, I never spent another night away from her.  When one turns one's perspective just right, one can see blessings in every situation.  That was certainly true for me and my mom.  Had she not known she had limited time, I would not have been as well prepared for her crossing or for living without her AND I doubt I would have the vivid memories I have now of those years.
 

 



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2022


Mom had a congenital heart defect and she learned shortly after my younger brother's birth that it was highly unlikely she would live though menopause without some very risky surgery. She decided against the surgery and she died in October, 1956, How blessed I was to get those almost 13 years.

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